We meet again. Hello my lovelies.

Anyone who reviews WWE on a weekly basis understands our common plight. It is not an easy job. VOW has welcomed a new Smackdown reviewer, Ru Gunn. Give her debut review a look.

My one true question is why I keep doing this to myself each week. Since that cannot be answered by any living being, we ask these of Raw:

  1. Will we get a card for Payback? Maybe the next PPV will be a mystery show that only has matches announced once the show is going on.
  2. How much Kane can one show take? Despite what Matthew Hocking may tell you, the show doesn’t always need more Kane.
  3. What’s Daniel Bryan on the show for? All I know as of writing this is that he will be appearing. I hope he’s going to say he feels fine. I’m really worried he has something much worse to tell us.

WWE Monday Night Raw
May 11, 2015

A long black limo appears. For a moment I fear I’ve dreamt the last 18 or so years and I still live in a studio apartment and sleep on a futon. Thankfully older, balder HHH steps out and I realize I’m still in my late thirties and drowning in student loan debt. Maybe I shouldn’t be so happy…

Well, HHHe’s gonna talk: “Daddy’s home.” If he would have called out Uncle Glen I would have dropped the laptop and walked away from Raw Reviews forever. Sadly he didn’t, and I roll the rock ever up the mountain, always failing in my Sisyphean task.

The fact that Rollins gets “you sold out” chants a year after breaking up the Shield is pretty impressive. Goes to show just how much people loved the Shield.

Any crowd chanting for Dean Ambrose, even in what they’re calling his hometown, is amazing given how they’ve spent the last 6 months or so burying him. Goes to show just how much people loved the Shield.

Kane always looks a bit less comfortable in a suit than HHH. It is always a bit ill-fitting. Fits the Daddy HHH and Uncle Glen dynamic very well. Goes to show just how much people loved the Shield.

Don’t often hear the word “amicably” uses in pro wrestling. The breakups so rarely are. I can’t really think of any. I know the Shield one was full of anger.

Holy God Jamie Noble is spitting the hottest of fire. All HHH has to offer are short jokes. Noble should have shot in for the double leg and thrown him into the Trailer Hitch. Then he could have joined the Shield.

Dean Ambrose vs. J&J: Short jokes about Noble and Mercury seem a little silly when Noble is about an inch shorter than Ambrose and Mercury may be slightly taller than him.

Mercury threw one hell of a lariat there. I would love him to become the grumpy old man who just decapitates people on a regular basis.

Booker T just admitted to believing in ancient aliens.


Winner: Dean Ambrose. Goes to Show just how much people loved the Shield.

Dolph Ziggler vs. King Barrett: Dolph has gone so 80’s I’m about to get bullied at recess. I’m excited to get a 2400 baud modem!

I wonder if Sheamus has a direct link into Vince’s brain or if some writer decided to just give Sheamus dialogue that would be all of Vince’s thoughts about smaller wrestlers. Either way, someone knows who the boss is.

This crowd is woefully incorrect. Sheamus is looking sharp. Also he is totally channeling the mean Irish sergeant from Glory. Winner: The King. Former leader of the Nexus, the best group ever until the Shield arrived.

Newhart Update: I’m in the final season now, and the distinct feeling of something that is on its last legs is unavoidable. The writers make the characters more shrill and less likable seemingly every week. The actors, so fully realized in these roles, are able to bring out these terrible qualities while retaining so much of the persona that the viewer grew to love. Anything redeeming about these people has faded into memory. We have reached WCW 2001 territory. The show is still familiar, and because they still have a lot of talent it is an easy enough to thing to watch. Once in a while, much like the last few months of WCW, an episode pops up that reminds the viewer of what the show could be and often used to be. But then the moment ends, and married characters who have never evinced signs of infidelity are on the verge of cheating at the slightest wink or smile. If  I had just started watching this show in the last year or so I would have bailed. But I’ve been watching since Ric Flair beat Harley Race and the Loudons were freshly arrived in Vermont. So I’ll watch until the last. In for a penny, in for a pound of flesh.

Erick Rowan vs. Fandango: What I’m taking from this is that Fandango is so damn hateable that former enemies will unite in the cause of beating this greaseball. Fandango would cause peace in the Middle East.

The only bad thing about these two getting back together is it probably means the end of Rowan’s meditation music.

The announcers are laughing about how quick Fandango is going to lose. That sure makes me want to watch.

I really want Harper and Rowan vs. Kidd and Cesaro. 20 minutes. Give me this WWE. Winner: Erick Rowan. Who fought the Shield in some great matches.

John Cena vs. Neville: Damn it Sami, how the hell do you injure yourself in pre-match celebration?

Of all the WCW things to survive, why did it have to be the US title? Hell, give me Battlebowl instead.

Jingoistic rambling aside, I do like that Cena is pushing the belt as not just a title to win, but a title that rewards being a great wrestler. Give it six months straight of top guys fighting for the title in match of the night every week on Raw and this thing might be worth something.

Best I can tell Cena is going to beat the former NXT champs in reverse order. Next few weeks of Cena challenges will be Bo Dallas. Big E, and Seth Rollins. Because John Cena hates NXT.

Cena’s wrestling style is the embodiment of what Sheamus was complaining about. He cuts off the comebacks of the smaller wrestlers with punches to the face. He hits moves after taunts. Using his strength to impose his will on Neville. And his finisher gets kicked out of on a regular basis by faces in order to create hope spots.

Knowing that they couldn’t give Neville the belt tonight, they protected him as well as possible. He got out of the STF. He kicked out of the AA. And Rusev’s interference protected the Red Arrow from being kicked out of and the announcers are saying they thought Neville was about to win the belt. I know WWE has a bad habit of getting bored and forgetting about people in the blink of an eye, but at this point I feel like Neville is pretty safe in WWE.

I’m enjoying the Cena pocketverse that’s been created since Mania. An important feeling plotline that as of now has nothing to do with evil bosses or faces of the company and what have you. Yes, John Cena winning all the time is tiring in some ways, but I can live with it to keep this up. Winner: John Cena. Who both fought against and with The Shield.

Kane vs. Roman Reigns: Yup. Show needed more Kane. Hocking was right after all.

The exchange on the outside was a good one. It’s just impossible to care about anything involving Kane at this point. But still, it was a nice bit from Reigns jumping the stairs through the spear. Winner: Roman Reigns. Former member of The Shield

Daniel Bryan is next and I have a pit in my stomach right now.

Tamina Snuka vs. Brie Bella: This isn’t Daniel Bryan. There’s still a pit in my stomach but now it is just realizing I have to watch this.

I’m glad that Booker T was able to be skeptical of the freaking Bellas saying that Naomi was going about this the wrong way.

The venom in Cole’s voice when he talks about Naomi “strutting” around the ring was palpable. Cole fears a strong black woman. Winner Tamina Snuka. She’s never had anything to do with The Shield.

Hulk Axel vs. Damien Macho Mandow: Because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And it worked so well for Big Show.

The Ascension comes out, talks about people aping old legends gimmicks, and the show has gone so meta that Brian Griffin just appeared.

But then Axel and Sandow did the Megapowers handshake and everything was wonderful for a brief moment. Winners: MEGAPOWERS UNITE! A group almost as formidable as The Shield.

Daniel Bryan is here: Trying to read Bryan’s expression. Can’t tell if the news is good.

One of the most overused expressions on the internet right now is, “I can’t even.” But honestly, I can’t. This is just depressing beyond my capacity to talk about right now. Winners: No one. Not even The Shield.

Cesaro vs. Big E: The New Day have somehow become wonderful. I say that every week, but everyweek I’m still amazed.

I agree with everything JBL is saying about the Patriots. Screw them.

Cesaro stomping Big E. to the New Day Sucks rhythm is all the stars.

I want these two to just throw each other around until the entire building crumbles from the shock waves.

Yikes! Big E was about 5 degrees of rotation away from having his neck exploded. Winner: Cesaro. Who almost certainly fought some Shield members back in the indie days.

If the Prime Time Players promo doesn’t lead to a cosplay battle between P$X and the Megapowers I will be eternally saddened.

Bray Wyatt’s dorm room rant: Bray has become the stoner down the hall who thinks he has the entire universe figured out and will tell you about it for hours at a time and eats all of the cookies your mom sent you. I mean, you don’t really mind since he’s kind of fun to listen to and he’s always willing to share a little of his stash. But you don’t have any clue what the hell he’s rambling about and it all runs together.

But then that dude on the intramural rugby team that you’re stuck rooming with comes back, and he’s totally ruining the mood by blending his weird-ass protein shake things and turning off your Godspeed! You Black Emperor album to turn on his Pre-Party Pump mix on Spotify. You never knew that Saliva had that many songs. Nor did you ever hope to know such things. Winner: The weird dude down the hall with the Velvet Elvis on his wall and a roommate who’s never around because he dates a senior girl who has a multi-bedroom suite in a co-ed dorm.

Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins: Oh who gives even the smallest of shits about this match? Just get to the run-ins by Reigns and Ambrose and let Ambrose stand tall so we know he can’t win on Sunday night. This match is just time being wasted watching two guys go through the motions.

I’m so incredibly tired of the trope where multi-man matches have the participants fight each other the week before.

Nice t-bone suplex there by Orton. Always cool when someone busts out something not always part of the moveset.

Whew. I thought we’d never get to the interference. Of course one could wonder why they didn’t do this the second the bell rang.

Just a reminder that the hook leading into a PPV in 2015 is what Kane is going to do. To put this in perspective using Kane’s first title win, this would be like if the hook Wrestlemania X was what Superstar Billy Graham was going to do in the Luger/Hart/Yokozuna/Hart set of matches.

The Triple Powerbomb was teased. Obvious Shield reunion in the works. Winner: Randy Orton. The only person in the Payback main event who was not part of The Shield.

Well that sure was a show. It had wrestling and talking and old guys in high waisted pants. But did we learn anything?

  1. Will we get a card for Payback? I don’t think we did. Did we? I guess they announced Kidd/Cesaro vs. New Day. I think. This show was not easy to pay attention to at times. Or is it that the show was easy to not pay attention to?
  2. How much Kane can one show take? Infinite amounts. More Kane than you can shake a stick at. Needed more Big Show though.
  3. What’s Daniel Bryan on the show for? Okay, I think I can work through this.

He’s on the show to say goodbye, without actually saying goodbye. Sure, he might one day feel good enough to do a run, maybe even get a couple of years if he has one of those Shawn Michaels miracle recoveries. But the Daniel Bryan of the last few years, the Bryan who hugged it out, who led the Yes! Movement, who stood tall at the end of WrestleMania 30, that Bryan is gone, and can never truly return. Like so many people I can say I watched Bryan Danielson from almost the beginning. I watched him grow into the best wrestler around, and a surprisingly charismatic, if a bit weird, sort of dude. I remember at an ROH show in Chicago when he and Austin Aries were put together as an impromptu tag team. Danielson demanded he and Aries show some teamwork, and amazingly, they did. Bryan ate up the “teamwork” chants from the crowd after each double team move, and after they won he grabbed the microphone and said “Hey, I’m going to the Pride Parade tomorrow!” It’s a small memory, but one of those moments that reminds me that this wasn’t a John Cena sort, a person who only knows wrestling and learns other things as part of his marketing duties. Bryan Danielson was a whole person, curious and interested in the world around, and that didn’t stop once he became Daniel Bryan, a part of the WWE machine.

His character was a rare case of WWE being willing to ride the fan wave. In so many cases it seems that the fans choosing to like something not specifically meant to be liked too much generates a weird blowback from the company. That’s why Zack Ryder has jobbed to everyone but President Ramu. But with Bryan they were dragged kicking and screaming into giving him his moment. Beating the whole of Evolution at Wrestlemania, ascendant as proof that sheer willpower and talent can get you to the top. A new age was upon us, an age that disappeared as quickly as it started. Since then there were fits and starts. We were electrified when he announced a Rumble comeback, and many of us kept clinging to scenarios where he would face Lesnar at Mania. In retrospect it is probably a good thing he did not, as a match with Brock may have caused him the kind of harm that you don’t walk away from.

To be a wrestling fan, especially one who revels in the physical aspects of the art, is to be inherently selfish. Our demands are insatiable. Daniel Bryan had to let himself be pounded into dust in order to be over enough to have his big moment. In August many of us will revel in the G-1 tournament, even as the men we admire and respect take absurd punishment in order to drag an extra half star out of the match. In high school gyms and rec centers and VFW’s around the country guys getting are getting $50 to throw themselves from 10-12 feet off the ground onto an exposed basketball court or a concrete floor, in the hopes maybe someone will like their Youtube compilation enough to book them in a bigger gym or bigger rec center. And we compartmentalize our love, tucking it away from a place of concern or consideration. These are grown men and women making decisions on how to live their lives. Personally, I’m okay with this. No one is throwing themselves off the top rope and not expecting it to hurt or potentially cause injury.

But sometimes there is seepage. The walls between our heads and our hearts have cracks and information finds a way to move from one place to the other, unwanted as it may be. At the intersection of our selfish desires and our human compassion stands Bryan Danielson. The wrestling fan in me wants him to get well and wrestle ten more years and have five-star matches and become the first WWE champ to wrestle in the aforementioned G1 tournament. And to be honest, if that means he has more aches and pains and needs surgeries as he ages, I’m okay with that. It’s his body, not mine. Yet part of me wants him to hang it up right now. Enjoy your life. Have Bella Babies who can eat organic baby food. Start a goat farm. Quit doing this thing that your body seemingly does not want you to do.

Do I really think that though? I can say these things, and not be lying when I say them. But do I truly want them, or do I simply want to want them because wanting them makes me feel like a better person? My avatar at voicesofwrestling.com is Tomoaki Honma. He’s the most over jobber I’ve ever seen in 30 years of wrestling. He barely ever wins, but because he takes the most epic shitkickings and never gives up, he is beloved by fans. I adore watching him, he’s an artist who knows how to bring the crowd to a fevered pitch, give them hope, and even when he lets them down they believe next time he’ll succeed. But the cost to his body must be ungodly. In 10-15 years he’ll need to have everything in his body replaced and he’ll actually become Robocop. A Robocop who never wins, but so be it. I know all of these things, and never once have they stopped me from loving Honma matches like a Kardashian loves publicity.

Bryan Danielson may never wrestle again. And I know that makes me sad. I don’t know if I’m sad for him or if I’m sad for me. But I know I’m sad. And I can’t imagine that anyone reading this isn’t sad as well. For whatever your reasons might be.

Tonight’s awards go to:

  • Ugh: Kane, for just being so damn Kane. And for looking like such an utter doofus shirtless and in those pants. I bet he wears black socks and sandals at the same time.
  • Honorable Mention: John Cena and Neville for the match of the night. Seth Rollins for his hilariously bratty interview. Daniel Bryan for an indelible moment, that I hope will not be his last. Cesaro because, as much as he may not like it, dude has gigantic face potential. Sheamus for being a sharp dressed man. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan for their Fandango Murder.
  • MVP: The Shield. Two and a half years since they debuted, a year since they broke up, and they still run the yard.

That’s that. Check out the VoicesofWrestling.com forums. Hit me up on Twitter at @spiffie6123. Please, I beg you, share the column. Or at least click on the column from 10 different IP addresses! Daddy needs hits!